Conclusion: William Petty's Political Science

Ted McCormick

in William Petty

Published in print September 2009 | ISBN: 9780199547890
Published online September 2009 | e-ISBN: 9780191720529 | DOI:
Conclusion: William Petty's Political Science

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The conclusion draws together several of the main themes of the book, arguing that political arithmetic can only be understood properly from the manuscripts he circulated in his lifetime, and in the context of his lifelong engagement with natural philosophy and his Baconian interpretation of the methods and purposes of science. Petty's project to transform government through the systematic manipulation of populations in the interests of the state undermines any retrospective distinction between his contribution to social science and his interest in social engineering; the concept of ‘biopolitics', though equally anachronistic, is more appropriate. By the same token, however, the massive expansion (in real terms) of demographic manipulation after Petty's death suggests that political arithmetic's ambitions were not abandoned but merely concealed.

Keywords: social science; social engineering; population; political arithmetic; natural philosophy; biopolitics

Chapter.  1335 words. 

Subjects: Early Modern History (1500 to 1700)

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